Picks and Pans Review: Album

updated 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Public Image Limited

The title and featureless cover of this record are intended to be a spoof of generic merchandising. The tape version is labeled simply Cassette. Yet lurking within this pretentiously unpretentious exterior is PIL's most exciting, accomplished collection to date. The creative outlet for Johnny Lydon, PIL has curbed its standard squirrelly experimentation in favor of some surprisingly orthodox music. The first cut, FFF (for "farewell, my fair-weather friend") is a straight-ahead rock number. For once, Lydon even eschews the intonations that make his singing so very bizarre. Instead, his voice is applied in multiple layers of dubbing that echo evocatively. Those who have followed Lydon's checkered career since he was known as Johnny Rotten with the Sex Pistols realize that this former idiot savant of punk music isn't likely to start emulating Wayne Newton. His lyrics are given to such observations as these lines from Rise: "They put a hot wire through my head/For the things I did and said." Lydon's music, left to its own devices, will still drift off into quasi-Arabic tones, as on the song Ease. But the brisk co-production of Bill Laswell prevents PIL from indulging in any truly wild wanderings. All the songs are bolstered by splashy guitar chords and relentless, triphammer percussion. The basic style of PIL remains too outrageous for it to be considered a generic rock group, but Album proves that good things do come in plain packages. (Elektra)

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